Motion Received under Standing Order No. 8 (Agenda item 8)
Motion proposed by Councillor Terry Land
Seconded by Councillor Philip Morton
Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)
As at 15th November 2022, there are 332 people in the Breckland District waiting to be assessed by Occupational Therapists for DFG adaptations. 175 people have already been assessed but are waiting for funding to become available to implement the assessment’s findings. On average, there are 15 new enquiries per week. On this basis, there could be a further 240 on the DFG waiting list by 1stApril 2023, more than 750 in total. It is likely that when the funding is refreshed in the new financial year, it will be entirely inadequate to cope with this level of backlog.
There is clear evidence for the effectiveness of the use of Disabled Facilities Grants in reducing the risk of harm and also in reducing costs in health and social care.
· The average Disabled Facilities Grant of £7,000 saves on average four years of residential care at £28,000 a year (£112,000).
· The Disabled Facilities Grant helps reduce the cost of care at home. For every £1 spent on a DFG, £7.14 is saved on health and social care costs.
It is widely recognized that the amount available for disabled facilities grants from central government, is not enough for the demand in Breckland. It is more than likely that we will be in this position again next year if the allocation from central government is not increased. In the Government’s recent policy paper an increase of funding was pledged, but Breckland’s allocation did not increase this financial year and we do not know if there will be an increase next year.
Council therefore resolves to:
· Allocate an additional £100,000 from the Inclusive Growth Reserve to the Disabled Facilities Grant budget in the 2022/23 financial year to tackle the backlog of adaptations that have been assessed as being required.
· Write to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to highlight the problem of insufficient funding to complete the required number of adaptations to people’s homes and the inevitable knock-on effect that this has on other aspects of the health and social care system.
In accordance with the Constitution, Councillor Land was given the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind his Notice of Motion.
Councillor Land stated that post pandemic, the NHS was under intolerable stress. It was estimated that there were over 100,000 vacancies for care workers across the country with the figure constantly rising. This was what was causing all the waiting times by ambulances outside hospitals as beds were unavailable. Therefore, this Motion, which would relieve pressure on the care system was a win, win.
Councillor land then spoke about his parents who were both in ill health and the issues they had with trying to get help from occupational health, thankfully, this had been sorted, but if that help had not been available they would have had two choices, help at home that was not always available or be moved into a care home which was not an option for either of them. By approving this Motion, it would help the NHS in the short term and save many 1000s of pounds in social care costs.
The Motion was seconded by Councillor Morton.
Councillor Birt fully supported this Motion as it was crucial that this Council did something. Data now showed that the stress in respect of these matters within the district was on the increase and this was one way that this Council could help and would be a perfect use of council money.
Councillor Jermy said that he had been involved a great deal with the health service over the last few weeks and he had found it very interesting in talking to various carers and NHS staff and the stresses that they were under. Bed hopping was causing many issues and disabled adaptions could help. But what had been less clear was the impact this was having on peoples’ mental health. The adaptations that his father had been lucky enough to receive had made him much more independent due to some simple adaptations and had promoted his independence. He was aware that Breckland Council could not solve the problems in the NHS or the social care system, but it did have a role in respect of these disabled facility grants and how these were spent and to top these funds up between now and April and he was pleased to support this Motion.
Councillor Turner referred to her Question on Notice and the response received that explained the work that this Council was already doing.
Councillor Atterwill fully supported this Motion and had taken great interest in the Question on Notice and the response received. The response that Councillor Bambridge, the Executive Member for Housing & Homelessness had provided was welcomed but as a Council it could look into the range of services that it provided. It had the means to provide the extra funding and allow the Team to sift through the applications as quickly as possible and he urged all Members to get behind this to allow people to retain their dignity and remain in their own home.
The Executive Member for Housing & Homelessness thanked Councillor Land for his Motion, he felt for his family and others alike who were suffering in the district and was pleased to hear that his family had received some help. Breckland Council was already doing many things to help, and the way it allocated its grants were being copied by other councils. This authority was lobbying for more funding and had already been in contact with the Secretary of State about further funding. There was a central government budget shortfall of £1.75m but more funding was required to tackle the grants that had already been assessed.
The Leader absolutely respected and supported the premise of the Motion and Breckland Council had already raised the profile with MPs and the Secretary of State. It would be impossible to tackle the 750 figures on the adaptation waiting list quoted in the Motion by Councillor Land by April 2023; however, he was pleased to report that the Handyperson scheme was working well and with this more people could be discharged from hospital much quicker by enabling small adaptations and allowing more people to move back into their homes. This was already on the top of the Council’s priority list.
Councillor Atterwill thanked everyone for their comments but the additional funding from the Inclusive Growth Reserve could become available immediately, he wanted to know if suitable plans had been drawn up and how soon could this Council mobilise trade people to get the work done as soon as possible. He also asked if the Council was aware of any particularly acute cases that it could put some of the monies towards as he was not sure how soon the Government monies would come forward.
The Executive Member for Housing & Homelessness said there were a number of acute cases in Breckland and the £82k for the Handyperson service mentioned in the response was immediately available and would solve a lot of problems for many people. He did not know when the Government funding would be coming through but, in the meantime, he believed that 170 cases had been fully assessed and had been fully quoted so the work could commence. He pointed out that the Council was now using 7 contractors rather than one and so the works were being dealt with swiftly.
Councillor Borrett congratulated Breckland for its innovative ways in dealing with grant monies and was pleased to hear that this authority was now assessing far more people than any other council. Breckland’s disabled facilities grants were essential and agreed with the Opposition as the thinking was exactly the same as the ruling Group; however, he could not support the Motion as the money had already been submitted and the Motion was therefore redundant.
As a member of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust, the Chairman pointed out that the NHS really appreciated the handyperson service.
Councillor Morton was pleased to learn of the actions being taken by the Portfolio Holder and the Housing Team as he also had a parent in their 90s who had benefited from such a grant but to have an increase to the backlog of claimants put out the wrong message and therefore supported the Motion.
Councillor Land moved the Motion, and following a request which was supported, a recorded vote was taken.
The Motion was lost by 30 votes against and 8 votes in favour – there were no abstentions.